Life cycle assessment of polyester/cotton shirts
Jane Cartwright, Jean Cheng, Julia Hagan, Christina Murphy, Nicole Stern, Jonathan Williams ~ Advised by Tom Dunne

The linen supply and industrial laundering industries employ more than 132,000 people nationwide and have combined annual revenues of approximately $12 billion (1). Industrial laundering, or the service of collecting, washing and drying, and redistributing rented apparel and linen products, is one of the most polluting industries in the world, consistently ranking among the top industrial contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Furthermore, creation of the textiles and apparel products laundered by this industry draws heavily on natural resources and is a large contributor to many environmental stresses. This group project seeks to better understand the potential environmental impacts of textile creation and laundering activities and develop feasible recommendations based on project findings.

Image source: Factory 20

Mission Linen Supply
Mission Linen Supply is primarily a linen and uniform rental business. The company serves 50,000 customers and launders 5.5 million kilograms of textiles annually at 28 laundering facilities across the Western U.S., including one near downtown Santa Barbara. Our client has several motivations for this group project, including the potential for: 1) Cost savings from identified resource use hot spots in the shirt’s life cycle; 2) Improving product and equipment design and operations; 3) Anticipating future legislation and regulation specific to the textile rental industry in the states it operates; and 4) Applying the recommendations towards efforts for creating a competitive marketing advantage through environmental product differentiation.

The project objectives are to: 1) Quantify and establish a baseline for energy and water use and assess the global warming potential for the life cycle of our client’s main product and service; 2) Identify processes in the product and service life cycle that use the greatest amount of energy and water and contribute the most to greenhouse gas emissions; and 3) Recommend changes to reduce life cycle resource use and potential environmental impacts of our client’s operations while yielding cost savings, when possible.

April 2011

Image Source: Red Kap DATA SOURCES Cotton production! Polyester production! Polyester fiber production! Yarn manufacturing! Weaving! Pre-treatment! Dyeing! Finishing! Cutting & sewing! Distribution! Our study utilized recent resource input and output data from our client’s actual operations. shirt buttons. packaging. Shirt! use! Transportation (Distribution)! Shirt! disposal! Disposal! (Landfill)! Figure 1: Process flow diagram of a shirt’s life cycle. Other sources of data we consulted were: • • • • • • • • Specific process information from our client’s garment suppliers Equipment specification sheets GaBi Professional database EcoInvent v. vehicles and maintenance. LCA is a method to systematically quantify and assess the resource use and potential environmental impacts of an industrial system through its entire life cycle. use and disposal (Figure 1).bren.ASSESSING THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF INDUSTRIAL LAUNDERING APPROACH To examine the environmental performance of our client’s operations and the products it purchases. energy generation. use and disposal phases. SCOPE We examined our client’s highest volume shirt. 2008 (3) fiesta. Figure 2: The 65% polyester/35% cotton shirt for this study.ucsb. We modeled 4 out of 28 laundry facilities to determine the average resource use of its operations for that garment. ancillary and scrap materials. overhead and labor. 2 2 April 2011 . manufacturing. buildings. through manufacturing. from raw material acquisition. a process-based life cycle assessment (LCA) was performed following the principles and framework of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 14040 series for Environmental management – Life cycle assessment (2). a 227 gram 65% polyester/35% cotton button-up short sleeve industrial work shirt (Figure 2) that is laundered 52 times and later discarded in a landfill. Adapted from Farrant. Outside the study’s system boundaries: Capital equipment.2 LCI database Peer-reviewed literature and LCA studies on textiles and/or apparel Region-specific energy grid mix Average statewide transportation emissions factors Water-related energy use in California Shirt! creation! Water heating! Washing! Drying! SYSTEM BOUNDARIES Within the study’s system boundaries: Raw material sourcing.

5 kg CO2-Equiv.bren. propane Water: 2. Shirt Use Total: 2.) Water Use (L) OVERALL RESULTS Disposal 0.2% Creation 36% Use 64% Disposal 1.1 kg CO2-Equiv. gasoline GWP: 5.729 L SHIRT CREATION Shirt Creation Total: 37 MJ Shirt Creation Total: 1.729 L ! 15 average bathtubs ~ Energy-Water Nexus ~ Energy production requires water.ucsb.084 L SHIRT DISPOSAL After an average of two years. Shirt Creation Total: 645 L SHIRT USE Shirt Use Total: 65 MJ Shirt Use Total: 4.84 gal. Consumptive: Water that evaporates or becomes substantially degraded in quality.5% Creation 27% Use 72% Disposal 0. Water treatment and distribution require energy. ~ Equivalences ~ Energy: 102 MJ ! burning 0. ~ Water Use ~ Non-consumptive: Water that is returned to its source and not substantially degraded.7 kg CO2-Equiv. fiesta. Total: 2.7 kg CO2e ! burning 1 gal.ASSESSING THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF INDUSTRIAL LAUNDERING RESULTS Energy net calorific value Global warming 100 years (MJ) (kg CO2-Equiv. the shirt is disposed of in a landfill. The overall resource use and contribution to global warming from transportation of the used garments to the landfill and the operations and maintenance of the landfill is 1.0% Creation 24% Use 76% Total: 102 MJ Total: 3 3 April 2011 .5% or less of the total life cycle impact.

• Perform economic feasibility analysis on the installation of solar water heating systems.ASSESSING THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF INDUSTRIAL LAUNDERING INTERPRETATION OF RESULTS The life cycle inventory and assessment for this study indicate that the garment use phase is the most resource intensive and the largest contributor to global warming potential in the shirt’s life cycle. CONCLUSIONS With Mission Linen Supply serving as a model for the broader industrial laundry industry. whereas polyester production uses the most energy in shirt creation. Continued efforts to measure and track facility operations and integrate environmental performance goals into the company’s business strategy can lead to cost and resource savings and reduce risk from impending legislation that can affect the industrial laundry sector. Cotton production uses the most water. Textile Rental Services Association of America/Uniform & Textile Service Association. Farrant. However.ucsb. fiesta. • Investigate ways to repurpose. • Continue to measure and reduce resource use in anticipation of impending government regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental Benefits from Reusing Clothes. (2006). (2010). We would like to extend a special thanks to Brandon Kuczenski of the Bren School for his direction and encouragement. or donate garments instead of disposing of them in a landfill. 2. LAUNDRY Environmental Stewardship Program (LaundryESP). Denmark. International Organization for Standardisation (ISO). We sincerely appreciate the guidance from Tom Dunne. (2008). The findings of this report show that increased efficiencies in the laundry operations phase can lead to the most environmental performance improvement of a garment’s life cycle. and maximize vehicle utility rate. reusing or repurposing shirts can reduce resource consumption and environmental degradation by displacing virgin material RECOMMENDATIONS • Share project results and collaborate with garment suppliers to focus environmental efforts on identified hot spots. International Standard 14040 series: Environmental management – Life cycle assessment 3. We would also like to thank the following people at Mission Linen Supply: Spencer Stevens. The environmental impact from shirt disposal is insignificant. Copenhagen. Technical University of Denmark. Ron Rocha. L. Mark Saposnik and Kim Garden. Master Thesis. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Our group gratefully acknowledges the support of the Bower Foundation. • Integrate environmental strategy into its business structure and increase environmental awareness among its customers. Roland Geyer. • Consider alternate fuel delivery vehicles.bren. our group examines the water and energy inputs and assesses the climate change impacts of garments and services used in this business. • Install meters on equipment to monitor and maintain its optimal efficiency. All four facilities exhibited different efficiencies in each process. Sangwon Suh and the Bren administrative staff. optimize delivery 4 April 2011 . SOURCES Image source: ico uniforms Image source: All Uniform Wear 1. Paul Nicholson. recycle.